Growing up as one of nine kids I often heard the expression- “cheaper by the dozen.” Back in the days before smart-phones and at a time when hand me downs and house calls were the rule not the exception, the expression was true.
My parents spent more on milk and bread than most families. They bought in bulk and cooked for quantity -think vats of tomato sauce and spaghetti! But in those days feeding one more kid cost pennies a day. We didn’t move into a bigger house with each kid – our bedrooms just got smaller with a new bunkmate. We probably saved most in childcare as my mom was a stay at home mom until all of the children were in school and then the older kids became built-in baby sitters.
Today the cost of raising kids is so expensive. This got me wondering if my parents would have been able to raise nine kids on my dad’s modest middle-income wages. After some research I got my answer:
The U.S. Government issues an annual report on the cost of raising kids. I learned that middle-income parents who had a new baby last year, can expect to spend nearly $300,000.00 over the next 17 years! Yikes! It would have cost my parents $2.7 million to raise their brood.
The Department of Agriculture’s report has examined child-rearing costs since 1960. The biggest change in the last 50 years has been the jump in child-care and education costs. They were just 2% back in the sixties. Now they are the second biggest expense for parents eating up 18% of the total child rearing expenses. That is more than food, which is 16%. The biggest expenditure for families is housing – which accounts for 30% of the budget.
Location, Location, Location
Where you live and how much you earn plays into the total amount you can expect to pay to raise your kids. Families of higher income will spend nearly a half million dollars per child from birth to 18-years old. (That is right, 18!! The number does NOT include college!) The lowest income group will spend less than half or $212,370. Geography also matters- parents in the urban northeastern part of the country will pay more than parents in more rural parts of the country.
How Many Can I Afford?
OK, but what about quantity? Does having more kids, like my parents did, reduce the costs? The good news for big families is that yes, the cost per child decreases as a family grows. Families with 3 or more children spent 22% less per child than families with 2 kids.
With Age Comes…Greater Expenditure??
So what are the most expensive years? Many parents like myself would guess a child’s first year is the priciest. I still remember the sticker shock of gearing up for the birth of my daughter. But the guess is wrong. Parents actually shell out more for older kids. Costs climb for every age group- starting out at a national average of about 12 thousand for babies and climbing to almost 14 thousand a year for teenagers.
I won’t dare tread where my parents bravely went in raising a big family, but taking a realistic look at what is ahead for me and the cost of raising just one makes me respect their ingenuity for stretching their dollars, their industriousness and personal sacrifices even more. But I know they’d tell me it was worth every penny…
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